Iftar at Pentagon sends a message

Barbara Ferguson | Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sat, 2009-09-05 03:00

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon opened its doors to celebrate Iftarwith Muslims in the military and their families Thursday night.

The event also was open to anyone who works in the Pentagon and drew over 200 people making it the largest Iftarevent ever hosted at the Pentagon. This came on the heels of an Iftardinner held at the White House earlier this week.

Muslims — uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members — joined together for prayers, and then with the other guests shared a meal that began with dates.

Guest speakers included Dalia Magahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies and a member of the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; James Zogby, head of the Arab American Institute; and Farah Pandith, State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities.

US Marine Corps 1st Sgt. Jamal Baadani was the master of ceremonies for the event. He said holding Iftarat the Pentagon is important because of the “message it sends throughout the military community.” “We’re able to practice and celebrate our faith here, at the heart of the US military, in the strongest country of the world,” said Baadani.

The event was organized by the Pentagon Muslim Community, but Baadani said two people were directly responsible for the Iftar. “The first was Zadil Ansari, who is the lay leader for all the Muslims at the Pentagon. “The second person was the Pentagon sponsor — you need a Muslim who works in the Pentagon — and that was Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Oldenburg.”

Many hoped the event would help foster greater understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims. “Tonight is a true representation of what American stands for,” said Nihad Awad, the head of Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations, “and for what all Americans can do for themselves and others in this country.” Navy’s Abuhena M. SaifelIslam, who led the Maghreb prayer said it was important to hold Iftarin the Pentagon, which was struck by terrorists in September 2001. “The Pentagon has its own gravity; it would probably lose the significance if we don’t hold it here in the Pentagon.”

But he admitted the event was becoming so popular it was becoming crowded. This was not only due to direct invitations, but also to the fact that “the Iftarinvitation was displayed throughout the Pentagon, so anybody working here — including non-Muslims — could attend if they wanted to.”

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